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Old 09-14-2015, 09:58 PM   #1
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Union boats and planes what floats...

Ok, the picture of Lady Alexandra got me going again.
As soon as I saw it in Marin's post, I recognized the dock in Davis Bay (Sechelt) where I had sometimes stopped aboard a Union boat as a kid.

Now, I have to disclaim a bit here:
Memory being what it is, some of my stuff is first hand, some is collaborative (an older brother) and some is a little sketchy, but it all makes for good tales. Most of it is pretty damn close to true and it won't mean a thing to most on this forum.

Coastal BC was built by the Union Steamship Company of B C.
You would never convince me that the skippers on those old boats, were not greater, braver, adventurers than any astronauts. If you know our coast, follow some of my links, read about conditions, groundings and the amazing records of lives not lost, you surely must agree. Luckily there was a lot of commercial traffic up and down the coast that not more than a day or so would go by before a stricken ship was discovered.

I remember going through Seymour Narrows long before Ripple Rock was Blown up.

It was so tight in there it felt like you could reach out and touch the trees.

Beaver Cove in the steamship days was just that, a cove on the north end of Vancouver Island. Englewood, across from what is now known as "Beaver Cove" was the Beach Camp where trains delivered logs to the chuck, destined for a mill beside the dump, to a Telegraph Cove sawmill or anywhere down the coast.

My family was in Englewood from '38 to '52 when we relocated back to Myrtle Point, the land settled in the 1800s south of Westview.

Twice a week either the Chelosin, Cardena or the most frequent, my childhood favorite Catala would arrive in Englewood headed north from Vancouver to Prince Rupert and a few days later southbound. As soon as we could walk we were at dockside when they came in because they always had something for us; fresh milk, new rain slickers, Coca Cola syrup, Red Book to sneak out to the woodshed because it had girdle and bra ads.

Of course it would be completely negligent to not mention the flagship Camosun, even though she was well before my time. In 1908 she was first vessel on the Canadian Pacific coast to be equipped with a Marconi wireless transmitter.

The Union boats were our lifeline.
Mail along with grocery orders to Woodward's Stores in Vancouver would be sent out and the same returned the following week, or maybe sometime later. Salmon from coastal canneries transported to Vancouver for shipment around the world. Pay cheques were sent out with the ship's purser for deposit in the Vancouver Bank of Commerce and cash brought back for those who wanted it.

Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways also operated steamers on the coast and I sailed on the Adelaide a couple of times. CP and CN provided a higher level of service, liked to accommodate camp brass and families but they didn't much care for the camp riff-raff so didn't survive.

As a kid the Union boats were way more fun anyway. We got to see real fights and usually managed to score some money tossed our way by poker happy loggers. However, what made some loggers happy, was money lost by others who, when they got to Vancouver, had to hock their caulked boots to buy an immediate return ticket to camp. The highlight for me though was the food, especially the mountain of hotcakes and Rogers Golden Syrup. Served by men in black jackets and white gloves. Called me "Sir" at age four.

Every summer, our annual holidays would be a trip onboard a Union boat to Vancouver, where we would spend a few days before catching a Gulf Lines steamer to Westview for a couple of weeks or more. I will never cruise past Savary Island without thinking of the 5 souls lost when the Gulf Stream ran up on Dinner Rock. One, an infant pulled from his father's arms by the sea.

Port Hardy was the hub for logging activity on the North Island and Alert Bay was home to the fishermen. Both were busy little towns with stores, hospitals and hotels. Alert Bay was closest to us and we made frequent trips via water taxi or fish boat. The main store was Dong Chong's where you could buy everything from caulked boots to cabbages.
On a tab if needed.

I'm told my first words were Dong Chong.

Such was camp life.
There were always highlights.
The Forestry, Fishery and Mission boats were so spectacularly clean. Those are the ones drooled over at wooden boat shows today. Father Gallo, a wine drinking cigar smoker was loved by everyone from Wilson Creek to Kitimat. I doubt abstinence was his specialty.

At age 4, a friend and I managed to take off my left pinky, right where it attaches to my hand, with an axe, so off we went in a fish boat, hand wrapped in a towel to Alert Bay. As luck would have it there was a travelling surgeon there and he figured, what the hell, might as well see if we can put it back. Can always chuck it away later if it don't work. Still have it, a little stunted and crooked and it gets into my ear better than my right one. Win, win.

Though I had already seen float planes, it was in Alert Bay that I first heard, then saw a Seabee; strangest thing ever; not as fast as a float plane but noisier than 10. Landed on the water and (sketchy memory part) ran right up on the beach. When it left we thought it would never get off the water and would break every piece of glass in the village.

My real introduction to air travel though was on a Supermarine_Stranraer or, more fondly known by all as the Whistling Shithouse, owned by Queen Charlotte Air, founded accidently by Jim Spilsbury another BC pioneer.

I was in one to Vancouver and back. We sat on a bench along the side. Our feet were right on the bottom of the hull and I will never forget the feeling of a landing on the water; it was like skiing over boulders.

When Queen Charlotte Airlines became a regular thing ship travel fell off and The Union Steamships of BC quietly disappeared.

I only have a couple of Union boat pictures and they are too rough to post but if you want some good reading on Union Steamships and the BC coast; Whistle up the Inlet and Echoes of the Whistle are good, if you can find them.
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Old 09-14-2015, 10:41 PM   #2
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The Seabee was a great airplane in its day. They were only made for two years IIRC and they were basically a means of keeping the Republic factory busy. But then they got a contract for a jet fighter design of theirs so they pulled the plug on the Seabee line to make room for the fighter line.

Kenmore Air Harbor made good use of Seabees in their own fleet including using them in glacier work in BC for the exploratory Granduc copper mine.. They removed the landing gear to save weight for their water operations; they landed the plane on the glacier on its hull.

I have a whole chapter on the Seabee and Kenmore's use of it in my book about the Air Harbor.
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Old 09-14-2015, 11:12 PM   #3
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Marin, "Success on the Step." Is that you?
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Old 09-14-2015, 11:22 PM   #4
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The C-Bee was referred as the 'Flying Coffin'. It had a long take off on salt water, coming out lakes was an adventure better left off.

We had the Queen of the North, Princess Kathleen,Princes Sofie from a Canadian line that slips my memory.
Prince George, Prince Rupert from the Canadian National fleet.
My Mother an elegant lady, preferred any of the Canadian ships over the American ships that competed with them, for their adherence to the English level of steward department and the dinning hall. Wonderful memories, thanks for bringing subject along.

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Old 09-14-2015, 11:51 PM   #5
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Hawgwash, Thank You for sharing. Makes it a pleasure to read along having been to those places along the BC coast.
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Old 09-15-2015, 12:08 AM   #6
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Sure like your threads Hawgwash. Sorry I didn't make it down to the old homestead last week, but I will...
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Old 09-15-2015, 12:25 AM   #7
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...the old homestead...
How I left it...
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Old 09-15-2015, 02:00 AM   #8
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Marin, "Success on the Step." Is that you?
Yes it is.
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Old 09-15-2015, 02:34 AM   #9
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The C-Bee was referred as the 'Flying Coffin'. It had a long take off on salt water, coming out lakes was an adventure better left off.
Not sure where that story originated but it's not true. At one time Kenmore Air Harbor had some 36 Seabees on the property, all but the one Kenmore owned belonging to members of an informal flying club who used their planes for all sorts of adventure flights in Puget Sound and BC. Kenmore itself used their own Seabee for, among other thibgs, fishing charters to lakes, big and small, all over the region.

One of their early customers was Enos Bradner, the outdoor sports reporter for the Seattle Times. Enos' first love was fishing and he'd heard rumors of the fabulous steelhead fishing that could be found on some of the lakes and rivers of Vancouver Island. He hired Kenmore founder Bob Munro to fly him and a Times photographer to some of these places in Kenmore's Seabee to see if the rumors were true. They were. He wrote about it in his column and Kenmore's phone began to ring off the wall with charter requests.

The company's Seabee made some pretty amazing flights during the years the company had it. While its Franklin engine had some quirks, having an ignition system that was half plane, half automobile and a somewhat Rube Goldberg prop reversing mechanism, it proved to be a reliable airplane if properly maintained.

I never heard Bob or any of the other people I talked to with direct experience flying the Seabee ever speak disparagingly of the plane or its performance which, while certainly not brilliant, was by no means lackluster.

Longtime Kenmore pilot Bill Fisk much preferred flying the Seabee to flying the company's two Norduyn Norsemen.

The photo below was taken by Bob when he flew a copper prospector and his assistant to the surface of the Leduc Glacier in BC. The prospector had discovered evidence of copper in the mountain beside the glacier and wanted to stake out a claim before other prospectors beat him to it. He hired Bob to fly him up there.

The reason the paint job on the rudder doesn't match the rest of the plane is because the rudder on Kenmore's plane had been damaged the night before when wind moved it backwards into a piling at the dock in Ketchikan where it had been tied up. The next morning Bob borrowed a rudder off a Seabee owned by a local operator so he could make the flight to the Leduc.

Later the prospector's mining company hired Kenmore Air Harbor to fly in an entire exploratory mining camp to the surface of the glacier complete with big wall tents, lumber for platforms and mine shaft supports, big GM diesel air compressors, generators, pipe, air drills, fuel, stoves, food, dynamite, even a washing machine--- everything that was needed to create a mining camp.

That camp became the huge Leduc Copper Mine. Kenmore made dozens of flights to the glacier from a bay in Misty Fjords, Alaska using their two Norsemen on floats and the Seabee to ferry everything up to glacier.
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Old 09-15-2015, 09:30 AM   #10
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"If they made a runway around the world, Republic would build an airplane that needed almost all of it"

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Old 09-15-2015, 11:23 AM   #11
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"If they made a runway around the world, Republic would build an airplane that needed almost all of it"

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And totally untrue. Among Republic's products are the P-47 Thunderbolt, the F-84 Thunderjet and F-105 Thunderchief jet fighters, anf the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-support aircraft.
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Old 09-15-2015, 11:26 AM   #12
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The kids in Western Alaska found a good use for the C-Bee.

Several of them would run up the wing to the other end when of course it would come crashing down ... then the other way. I think they are all out on the tundra now. I saw one flying down here in Washington not long ago but not in Alaska.

I think the problem was the power system. When the engine quits on a relatively heavy small plane w short stubby wings there's little chance of a graceful landing ... or safe.
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Old 09-15-2015, 11:34 AM   #13
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It would be a good idea to call the plane by its proper name which is Seabee, not C-Bee.

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I think the problem was the power system. When the engine quits on a relatively heavy small plane w short stubby wings there's little chance of a graceful landing ... or safe.
And again, a totally bogus assumption. I've interviewed Seabee owners who experienced engine problems in flight and the plane glides just fine and, assuming a controlled landing onto decent ground or water, lands just fine as well.

Another plane with "short stubby wings" is the Piper PA140 Cherokee. I got my Private in a Cherokee and we practiced engine-out maneuvers a lot. The plane is totally controllable, has a decent glide ratio, and assuming I set up a good descent path was easy to land power off on the little crop duster strips in the cane fields on Oahu.

The only thing I didn't care for was practicing spins, as with those relatively short wings the Cherokee wraps up pretty quickly. A Cessna has a slower rotation in a spin.
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Old 09-15-2015, 01:52 PM   #14
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We operated a TwinBee for a while as my old boss had once operated SeaBees into the Stikine. Almost a STOL airplane with 2 (200 hp Lycomings?); asked by a passenger if it would fly on one while on a crossing of the Hecate Straits, the pilot (this guy was never the crispiest chip in the bag) feathered one. The result was a large splash as the 1/2 Bee would not fly on one and arrived in the waters off Queen Charlotte City, scaring the cr@p out of the passengers but without tragedy as the Bee was built like a tank. Think he got a few days off...
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Old 09-15-2015, 02:10 PM   #15
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And totally untrue. Among Republic's products are the P-47 Thunderbolt, the F-84 Thunderjet and F-105 Thunderchief jet fighters, anf the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-support aircraft.

Well I guess you don't get humor, of course it's untrue, no A/C would require a runway going around the world.

Several of the A/C you listed have a known reputation for being ground hogs.

I heard the quote from a pilot with over 800 hours in the F-105 and over 400 in the F-84. He is very close to me and told me the quote has been around a long time. It is a fairly well known fact.

So yes many were runway hogs, not that that was a problem as they were heavy and under-powered given the loads they carried in some hot environments.



F-84

"Pilots nicknamed the Thunderjet "The Lead Sled".[2] It was also called "The Iron Crowbar", "a hole sucking air", "The Hog" ("The Groundhog"), and "The World's Fastest Tricycle", "Ground Loving Whore" as a testament to its long takeoff rolls.[2] F-84 lore stated that all aircraft were equipped with a "sniffer" device that, upon passing V2, would look for the dirt at the end of the runway. As soon as the device could smell the dirt, the controls would turn on and let the pilot fly off the ground. In the same vein, it was suggested a bag of dirt should be carried in the front landing gear well. Upon reaching V2, the pilot would dump the dirt under the wheels, fooling the sniffer device.[2]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_F-84_Thunderjet

The 105 and the P-47


"The initial reaction of the fighter pilot community to their new aircraft was lukewarm. Between its massive dimensions and troubled early service life, the F-105 had garnered a number of uncomplimentary nicknames. In addition to the aforementioned "Thud", nicknames included the "Squat Bomber", "Lead Sled", and the "Hyper Hog" and/or "Ultra Hog".[38] The latter two names arose from the F-105's predecessors, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and F-84 Thunderstreak, nicknamed "Hog" and "Super Hog", respectively. According to F-105 pilots and crews, the "Thud" nickname was inspired by the character "Chief Thunderthud" from the Howdy Doody television series."


But like I said they were heavy and used a LOT of runway.

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Old 09-15-2015, 02:41 PM   #16
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We flew a 747 freighter at a million pounds gross weight. That plane, too, was a slug on the ground. But with normal loads, it isnt.

The military has a way of loading their machines up with all sorts of stuff after the've been designed and put into production. An Elco PT boat had to go at least 41 knots when the boat was completed or the Navy would not accept it. That was with its designed complement of guns and torpedoes.

But when they got to their combat theatres the boats were so loaded down with extra equipment that they were lucky to get 25 knots out of them and that sped continued to drop with bottom growth, iffy fuel, engine wear, etc.

Planes are the same way. The P-47 may have been something of a slug when it was loaded down with what they put on it for a ground attack role. But as designed for the initial mission it was inteded for, it wasn't.
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Old 09-15-2015, 02:44 PM   #17
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Marin I think "C-Bee" will do. Got it from post #4 and don't care what they are called.

Why were they such a disaster in Alaska Marin? That much is a fact but I really don't know why .... but you should. I suppose they got started because there wer'nt enough Wigens to go around. Those stubby winged birds you talk of May have "decent" as you say glide ratios but probably very high sink rates. That's what makes smack'in the ground so painful.
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Old 09-15-2015, 02:54 PM   #18
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Marin I think "C-Bee" will do. Got it from post #4 and don't care what they are called.
No problem. I will start referring to your boat as Wylarde Toy Cruiser.

Glide ratio and sink rate are related. Glide ratio defines the sink rate.

I have no idea why they were "unsuccessful" in Alaska or even that they were. The Seabee was designed by Percival Spencer to be a four-place recreational seaplane. In that role they were very successful in the context of the time.

If operators in Alaska bought them and tried to haul more than they were capable of or use them in ways they were not intended to be used then I suppose they could have been considered to be unsuitable.
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Old 09-15-2015, 03:57 PM   #19
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No problem. I will start referring to your boat as Wylarde Toy Cruiser.
Lol, I'll try to mind my peas and cues here but, is it conceivable that the Seabee I saw in Alert Bay did actually come out of the water and up the beach? Like I said, sketchy memory.
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Old 09-15-2015, 05:22 PM   #20
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Yes it is. Seabees were designed as amphibians. As such, they have retractable landing gear. How it works is the main gear pivots up to a position parallel with the fuselage while the tailwheel retracts into a slot (I think).

Kenmore Air Harbor, being a water operation only, removed the landing gear from their Seabee and kept the plane in the water all the time. This added more weight to the plane's useful load. If they had to remove the plane from the water they either stuck the gear back on or pulled the plane up the ramp on a dolly.

Most of the private owners of the Seabees kept at Kenmore retained the gear so they could land on runways or water.

So yes, a pilot could land a Seabee on the water, lower the gear and taxi up onto shore.
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